Copyright 2001 Gale Group Inc. All rights reserved. COPYRIGHT 2001
Wednesday, August 1, 2001
ISSN: 0192-3978; Volume 104; Issue 2
Don't Wait On Washington.(public works contracts)(Brief Article)
The chairman of the Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee
plans legislation to rebuild this nation's drinking water and wastewater
infrastructure, but it could cost as much as $23 billion per year that
the water districts don't have. This pronouncement from Jim Jeffords,
the newly independent Vermont senator, comes on the heels of two
recently released reports on the state of this nation's drinking and
The American Water Works Association and The Water
Network estimate that billions of dollars are needed to keep ahead of
our decaying infrastructure. AWWA estimates $250 billion needs to be
spent over the next 30 years; WIN says we "will have to invest $23
billion a year more than current investments" to meet federal
environmental and health requirements and to "replace aging and failing
In perspective, sewer construction totaled $10.2 billion last year,
down 0.5 percent from 1999 and 19 percent from 1991 in
Water pipes last from 75 to 150 years, depending on the material-1920s
vintage lasts an average of 100 years; post-World War II vintage lasts
75. A tremendous amount of pipe is reaching replacement age right now.
"The replacement bill for these pipes will be hard on us for the next
three decades and beyond" AWWA says.
The good news is that there's lots of work for construction companies
to do. The bad news is that user fees historically finance water and
sewer infrastructure. Some estimates put the cost of repair at thousands
of dollars per household over the next 30 years. This year's Federal pie
is about $1.35 billion, and it can be argued that infrastructure
supporting our drinking water and wastewater systems is as much a
national responsibility as our transportation system. For the Federal
government, finding the money must be made a priority.
Thirty years gives American ingenuity time to help solve this problem.
First, utilities and contractors can develop cost-efficient new
techniques. Those construction companies that deliver quality
underground repairs at significant cost savings will be able to claim a
large chunk of the $23 billion pie and find their efforts rewarded with
contracts over the next 30 years.
Second, equipment manufacturers can continue to invest research and
development dollars to create the technology and equipment to do the
job. The innovators will not only be credited with helping to solve a
national crisis, but their companies can also expect to prosper for
another 30 years.
So before we stand still, paralyzed while waiting for money from
Washington, let's put some energy into solving the problem. Let's use
today's machines more efficiently, and build even better equipment for